In A Nutshell
Billy Nardozzi is a local legend in Pittsburgh. He publishes poetry in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s classifieds, and for years, no one was sure if he really existed or if he was just some elaborate hoax. Today, he’s well known about town, and his simple poems have earned him a cult following.
The Whole Bushel
Pick up a copy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, turn to the “Celebrations” section of the classifieds, and you’ll find a black-and-white photo of a strange-looking guy sporting a mullet. However, he’s not there to wish anyone a happy birthday or announce an engagement. So what’s he doing in the classifieds? He’s publishing poetry.
His name is Billy Nardozzi, and for the longest time, no one was sure if he even existed. His poems started popping up in the Post-Gazette in 2006, accompanied only by his name and an outdated snapshot of the mystery man. There was no contact information, no biographical details, and no real clues as to who this secretive poet really was. The poems themselves were extremely simple with titles like “My Teacher,” “My Country,” and “When I Was a Kid.” He wrote about topics like Halloween, hometown heroes, the Beatles, and his job. His rhymes were almost childlike. For example:
No matter what money
I make in my pay
Just being employed
Is a blessing today.
And thanks to his innocent words and enigmatic persona, Billy Nardozzi caught the attention of Pittsburgh locals. While some found his poems laughable, others loved Nardozzi’s sweet sentiments (assuming he was real and not some sort of hoax), and he soon developed a cult following. People even started slapping bumper stickers on their cars and wearing bracelets that read “WWBND?” (“What Would Billy Nardozzi Do?”) Sure, there was some irony involved, but there were plenty of people who truly enjoyed Billy’s little verses.
Finally, in 2009, the Post-Gazette ran a story revealing that Nardozzi was in fact a real person who spent his days packing bottles at the local Liquor Control Board. He was just your average married guy with kids, and he’d been writing poetry for fun for the past 30-odd years. He’s still writing today, publishing a poem every Tuesday on issues ranging from texting to the Steelers to his own grandmother. He’s even added a phone number at the bottom of his column so fans and haters alike can give him a call. Fame hasn’t affected his style either, and his poems are as simple as ever:
Love is stronger than the wind
And it is stronger than the tide
And there is not a better feeling
Than that person by your side.
While it’s fair Nardozzi is no Walt Whitman, he’s become a local legend, and he believes he’s providing his community with a valuable service. When a reporter asked him why he writes poetry, Nardozzi replied, “I write them because in this crazy, corrupt, complicated, competitive world, I want people to know there’s still some innocence.”
Show Me The Proof
The poems of Billy Nardozzi
NPR: Billy Nardozzi: Pittsburgh Poet, Local Legend
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Heartfelt poetry makes for nice prose and cons